Sunday, December 18, 2011

Tebow Couldn’t Pass Hardest Test: Uncertainty In Future?

The swarms of Tim Tebow critics looking for any flaws and shortcomings have every reason to criticize and call him a martyr in any transparency believed during the Tebowmania drama.

In truth, he’s not ready for the challenge to emerge into an elite passer, a public figure – a holy man of faith and strength, leading his team to a 7-1 record since taking over as starting quarterback before the Patriots clinched the AFC East with a 41-23 rout over the flawed Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High late Sunday afternoon.

He can build a children’s hospital in the Philippines, where the star quarterback was born and spent time doing plenty of missionary work for poverty-stricken children. He can visit inmates incarcerated in prisons with his bible and lift downed spirits – become a motivational speaker for those in need of guidance or inspiration to alleviate one’s soul. He can kneel on the sideline, close his eyes in his usual prayer stance and point skyward after completing a touchdown as a polarizing figure based on his evangelism and Christianity. And, nonetheless, bigots and sports atheists continue to debate if his gestures are really genuine, a religious act known as “Tebowing.”

The doubters believe Tebow won’t ever be an elite passer, so help me God – rooting for him to fail rather than achieve in the National Football League, not sold on his potential in developing into a consistent deliverer in the most important role of a team sport. The fact that ESPN analyst Merril Hoge criticized Tebow via Twitter and doesn’t think very highly of his ability to establish himself as a competent NFL quarterback, known as a devout Christian more than he is as an iconic star in Denver, Tebow has silenced non-believers in recent weeks and had the best passing game in his career. Except one can argue that Tebow, who is ridiculed because of his public faith, has not improved his arm strength, footwork and precision.

The ultimate perception is that he finally looked like a passer with sheer accuracy on mid-range slants and sideline patterns and, as a result, he finished 11-of-22 for 194 yards and even gained 93 yards rushing on 12 carries. The guy, I have to mention, rarely gets a breather from the media coverage he receives each week, absorbing the national spotlight from all the publicity of his Christian beliefs. There’d be no comebacks, no miracles, not even a last-second prayer in what might have been a signature game had he carried the Broncos to a statement win over the Patriots.

“I feel like we’ve gotten better throwing the ball,” Tebow said. “We were able to do some good things but then we got behind and started pressing a little bit.”

It’s so much as if the Broncos can’t pull tricks out of Tebow’s helmet. It’s so much as if no magic is left in a storybook season. But even though the Broncos were no match for the Patriots, a team of NFL royalty capping one of the greatest dynasties in sports, they are on the verge of earning their first playoff appearance in six years. Entering the game with a six-game winning streak, Tebow finally had his real test, and after he led the hottest team in football, he convinced national television viewers to believe in a miraculous run.

This one draws further debate, more attention in the wave of insanity, questioning his abilities to perform as a top quarterback in the league. He has become an exalted icon or a polarizing athlete in which he is either loved or loathed and led his team to new heights, with good character and humility, a modest son – a patron saint teased by doubt but strong with his faith.

It feels like a miracle if he rallies the Broncos to a victory, all because he competes with heart, mental toughness, work ethic and character, a trend many fans became accustomed to every week. The bashing is unfairly, as far as we know, targeted at Tebow simply for the fact that he is the starting quarterback and bears a tremendous amount of pressure as much hype swirls around him.

Unfair as it is, realizing that Tebowmania is killing off the Bieber Fever, he is treated as if he’s the football god or even a public enemy. For those who believe prematurely, without any evidence whether his future in Denver is certain, he’s not fully developed and still needs growth to eliminate flaws in his game. Yes, he has the potential, just not right now, looking like a beat up rag doll. The Patriots, one of the winningest franchises of this generation, physically harassed and knocked Tebow down. He was sacked four times and was hit frequently while in the pocket, unsuccessful scrambling and breaking away from the pressure of a lethargic and atrocious defense.

It was absolutely painful to watch, but we've witnessed the real Tebow and seen the Patriots crafty defensive performance, the best they’ve had all season. The Patriots, as it turns out, were prepared to stop Tebow in the spread option and delayed the emergence of a football star, a pious figure who is the cure to humanity of a political, mentally disturbed, angry, economic-battered society. This game started nicely for Tebow early. It happened in the first quarter when he raised momentum and when New England had almost sacked him for a 3-yard loss, but he broke loose and bulled to the end zone from 9 yards out, storming in.

As anyone familiar with his athleticism, Broncos head coach John Fox runs the spread, a formation that is highly unusual in the pros. But the system fits Tebow’s style, simply for his versatility and speed – including Denver’s committed rush attack. This was anybody’s game from the start and there was a possibility that the Broncos could have beaten New England and its lousy defense. For a while there, he was running through the holes, running all over the Patriots but of course head coach Bill Belichick had his players spend last week watching film and preparing rigidly for Tebow and the Broncos old school offense.

By the end of the first-quarter, in what was the most rushing yards the Broncos have had in the first quarter in over two decades, Denver had 157 rushing yards and a 13-7 lead. The talk couldn’t hush about Tebow, the most controversial athlete in America, but then Patriots veteran quarterback Tom Brady shouted and fiercely spiked the ball in front of the stands where spectators looked on and carried his team. The extremism follows Tebow wherever he goes. A star was born, and although he’s an ultimate competitor, the Patriots were winners by reading his ball fakes and by putting hard hits on him.

For much of this one, he was forced to throw more as the Patriots made the running routes difficult and life miserable for Tebow, in which he gradually was better in the passing game. That defensive game plan was useful and wisely thought of and Tebow danced in the pocket, running wildly and confused. Late in the game, it was already a blowout when Tebow dropped back into his own end zone. It was Pats' defenders rushing and harassing him, and he lost the football, only to retrieve the ball and throw it away to avoid the safety.

Don’t say ever, but he’s not there yet. Tebow still needs to develop, if he ever wants to be an elite quarterback. He has potential, but he just doesn't have it now and it showed on a day that tested his toughness and ability.

He’s not Tebowing just yet.